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I have a friend who often leaves early and abruptly. He does this in many different situations.

Here is one common example: we met for coffee. After about 30 minutes he said he had to leave in 15 minutes, then after 10 minutes, he left even before I finished my drink.

I find it a bit rude to leave someone just because you finished your food/drink faster. Normally when I invest the time in meeting with someone I would like to spend a couple hours with them.

I thought about acting as if I was surprised, like "aren't you going to wait for me to finish my drink?" I would like to politely ask him to stay without sounding needy and without insulting him.

Is there a way of asking them to agree to a minimum amount of time or to stay longer?

A comment asked "if you had reason to believe that they would stay longer than they did". Where I live it is common to spend a couple of hours when meeting with someone, especially if it's after you have both finished work for the day. Also depending on the activity I think there are implicit expectations. For example if you invite someone to watch a movie with you, they probably would plan to stay until the end and not leave halfway through. When eating or drinking with someone I consider it polite to wait until everyone has finished before leaving. Don't you think it's rude to leave one person behind because they are a slow eater? Another example that actually happened was the same friend invited me to a party where I didn't know anyone. Shortly after I arrived he left. I don't consider this relevant but often times it's him who suggests meeting, for example he asked if I was free to go for coffee. Granted 2 hours is a bit long for coffee, though in this example the first coffee shop was busy and we walked to another one. Though my point was it would be nice if he didn't leave me there before I finished my drink.

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    Why is your expectation of how much time should be invested more correct than theirs? If not; did you communicate your expectation? I am trying to figure out if you had reason to believe that they would stay longer than they did.
    – Flater
    Nov 23 at 16:18
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    It might help to name a country, or a region. Cultural expectations around these sorts of things can differ from place to place. For example, I think it would always be rude to walk out in the middle of a movie. But the length of a meal can vary a lot. Here in the US, a restaurant might expect to use the same table for 2-3 different dining parties in an evening. I am led to believe that in Europe that would never work. Nov 24 at 0:26
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    Are you in the same city? If travel to meet a friend I expect it to last longer then if i just go for a quick drink after work with colleagues. In the former case we would typically meet up for dinner because this would gives us more time.
    – Ivana
    Nov 25 at 10:47
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    Is your friend socially awkward, anxious or a bit introverted? It might be that he just isn't comfortable to stick around for long periods of time and just had his "fill" of social interaction after a while. I know from personal experience how draining social interactions can be and had a tendency to show up out of politeness but leave when I had the chance (even with good friends). That might be a factor here as well, if he seems generally tense or uncomfortable.
    – Katai
    Nov 25 at 11:51
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    To me it looks like he is trying to give you a warning, 10 min to finish a coffee (as opposed to "drink a whole cup") sounds perfectly reasonable. I am always trying to be explicit about how much time I have: "Meeting up would be great but I will have to leave at 8" and then I am left slightly aghast when at 5 to 8 the question "another round?" comes up. Ummm, no. Nov 25 at 14:51
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I am a bit of an introvert, and often experience my "social battery" running dry quickly and with little to no warning. When that happens I get a strong urge to extract myself from whatever social situation I am in, as fast as possible. Before that happens I often have genuine intentions of staying for hours, but once it happens, it is a huge struggle to overcome the impulse of leaving.

My point is: maybe your friend doesn't plan on leaving that soon, which is why you get no real warning about leaving.

My recommendation: be glad that your friend makes the effort to spend time with you at all, it could require a lot of mental energy for him. And I think it is likely not your fault, it's just how your friend's mind is wired.

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    Yep, this is also my experience. I would also like to add, that depending on the relationship with the other party, I also might be embarrassed to go into details of it with them, because I would feel insecure not knowing if they can understand me, or just decide that I'm a garden variety jerk, who cannot control themselves. Unless you have experienced this first hand it may be hard to understand (like many things in life). Nov 24 at 23:29
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First and foremost: did you communicate a timeframe with him? If not, you can't expect someone to adhere to the amount of time that makes you comfortable. Grabbing a coffee, to me, sounds like a pretty quick chat, so I'd find 40 minutes to be more than reasonably sufficient, but if you think otherwise, you need to make sure he knows. For example, you could ask "hey, do you want to grab some coffee with me, and I'd like to chat for (however much time)?" That way, he can actually agree to this ahead of time or work out a solution with you beforehand.

Unless you agree to a set time, someone is going to have to make the call to end sooner or later. You can't both sit there for eternity so someone's going to be the first to bring it up if you don't discuss the time. From how you worded your question, it seems he had something urgent that required him to leave (at least in your example), which again may have been solvable by communicating this ahead of time, or at least he would know the urgent matter is cutting into this time and would know to apologize and try to make up for it somehow.

I think really that's the most important part: just set not only a start time but an expectation for duration when you arrange a meeting with someone. I would advise also considering how much you are willing to agree to a maximum amount of time that they want and decide how you can accomodate that. Some people might be too busy for a long meeting at times you want or just don't like social interaction for that long. How willing are you to make a compromise there? Think about that for yourself so communication can go smoothly when you ask the other person to agree to something.


The simple answer to "is there a way of asking them to agree to a minimum amount of time?" is yes: just ask them. I don't know if you have but you don't indicate that in your question. If you want to increase odds of it working out, also work out with yourself how much you will accomodate / agree to their needs.

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    I agree that communication of expectations is the key. If it seems awkward, it could be places indirectly (eg. instead of going for a drink, go for a meal in slow restaurant, or go together for a hike at local mountain which would take several hours etc). However, in either case, the OP should be aware, that the friend might (due to other schedules, or being more introverted etc.) then decline such invitatations altogether (or accept them less frequently) Nov 26 at 10:57
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Everyone seems to be assuming the friend doesn't want to spend that long with OP but it may be a mismatch of expectations. Note that the friend at least does want to have that 30-40 minutes over coffee, rather than declining it because they are busy.

After about 30 minutes he said he had to leave in 15 minutes, then after 10 minutes, he left even before I finished my drink.

The friend gave warning that he had to leave - that gave OP the choice to finish their drink quicker if they didn't want to be left there alone, It was also the opportunity for OP to say "That's a shame, I'd hoped we could talk for longer" or even gently try to persuade them to stay (depending on the reason given).

This would then give a background so next time you invite them to coffee you can ask how long they can stay and set your own expectations accordingly.

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    Two good points you make 1) often times it's my friend that initiates the interaction e.g. he invited me for coffee 2) I find it worse when he gives warning that he will leave at a certain time but leaves even earlier because then I don't pace myself accordingly to finish my drink/food etc.
    – slackliner
    Nov 24 at 22:53
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    There is nothing wrong with finishing your food after your friend leaves. Is it possible that you are needlessly trying to make all the timing be absolutely perfect for no reason at all? If you lower your expectations of other people you will be upset about them not being met less often. ;) Nov 25 at 7:52
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I think some of the existing answers are rather kind towards the friend. Yes, there are good reasons to leave abruptly. No, there is no implicit, universal understanding that a meeting for coffee needs to take multiple hours. However, from the question it sounds more like there is an ongoing pattern of the friend inviting OP to a meeting (or agreeing to a meeting) and then leaving very quickly, often before the agreed-upon activity is even finished. I was particularly struck by the following statement:

Another example that actually happened was the same friend invited me to a party where I didn't know anyone. Shortly after I arrived he left.

I think it's a bit unfair to fault OP to feel like their friend does not actually value their time (and/or their company). Quite frankly, I would also be annoyed (and I am certainly not the kind of person for whom a coffee needs to be an all-day activity).

So, to answer the question:

Is there a way of asking them to agree to a minimum amount of time or to stay longer?

Of course one can try to set the parameters of any specific meeting more explicitly (let's meet for a two-hour coffee-and-cake chat), but I feel this is slightly awkward and does not really address the problem. If I'm being honest, I expect the friend to leave anyway if they get bored after 30 minutes or something better comes up.

I think what is required here is a serious conversation about the state of their friendship, or at least of the activities that are being done. Does the friend actually enjoy the kind of things they are currently doing together (not everybody loves to just sit in a coffee house and chat for hours)? Does the friend even see OP as a friend, or is it more of a colleague or acquaintance? Is the friend aware that OP sees their abrupt departures as rude?

I think these should all be discussed explicitly, even if (maybe especially if) OP thinks they already know the answers to these questions. Just because you loved hours-long conversations 5 years ago does not mean you still do. Just because you used to be really close 5 years ago does not mean you still are. Just because you think it's obvious that you are annoyed does not mean the other side is aware.

Even in platonic relationships we sometimes need to talk about the state of our relationship...

Footnote: this is all under the assumption that this is indeed a platonic friendship. If OP is romantically interested in their "friend", I would simply take their behavior as a sign that they aren't that interested...

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  • Now that you mention romantic interest; it may also be the case that the friend is secretly romantically interested in OP, so wants to spend time with them and accepts (or even initiates) invitations, but after some time, the pain of being so close but NOT actually being romantically involved (and lacking a courage to propose) rises and eventually becomes unbearable - it might even explain the sudden 15min->10min changes (especially if OP said/did something that triggered more emotional response in friend - which might be as innocent as longer look at cute passerby or whatever) Nov 26 at 11:11
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You have to understand a little about psychology to have a chance at answering this "time" question. Some people just don't like being in crowds. Introverts, people with ADHD, some people with Autism, and many other types of people just don't like crowds or social situations.

Granted, not everyone with neurodivergent conditions dislikes crowds and social situations, and many neurotypical people don't like them, either. But knowing that these mental conditions exist can help us understand that not everyone is comfortable in every situation, or not comfortable very long.

Also, having coffee or a meal take longer than the act of drinking or eating can be a cultural thing. I grew up on a farm where we typically talked around the table until everyone was done eating, then cleaned everything up immediately. However, we could also asked to be excused if we had something else to do, such as homework. And there were times when we simply ate quickly without talking much so we could get back to work. The only time we sat at the kitchen table for long periods of time is when we were playing games either as a family or with friends.

Many cultures around the world consider coffee/tea breaks and other meals to be a time for companionship and camaraderie, where they spend sometimes many hours just talking while occasionally snacking. They expect everyone involved to understand that it's not "just" the food that's important.

And there's always the possibility that people have other things scheduled. Your friend might have had an interview or a meeting with another friend, yet wanted to "squeeze" in time with you.

In most cases, as hyper-neutrino's answer nicely states, talking about the time commitment before the meeting/meal/whatever is the best policy. It sets expectations and helps prevent people from being surprised when someone has to leave "early".

Asking why someone is leaving can be considered rude, but it also depends on culture and the other things I mentioned earlier. It can also be based on the tone of your voice or non-verbal signals. Maybe an introvert or shy person just has had "their fill" of being in a crowded restaurant and needs to get away. Maybe they just remembered something they had to do before a store closed and maybe that errand is personal. Maybe it's like the movies and they saw an ex they need to avoid.

You can often ask why they are leaving only if there's no implied or explicit expectation they are leaving to avoid you. Sometimes you can say "Is it that time already?" pretending that you had lost track of time and that it's a planned ending you just forgot about. Regardless of how you ask, leave it as open-ended as possible so they can don't feel pressured to stay or to make up an excuse. Let them use whatever reason they want and make their leaving pleasant.

Saying "Is it that time already?" seems like it isn't open-ended, but it's used so often that it's more of a "throw away" statement or quasi-rhetorical question than a real question.

The caveat is that if you know someone just isn't feeling comfortable in a crowd, offer to walk with them somewhere. This can serve to get them out of their uncomfortable-ness as well as keeping the social interaction between you two going. It also shows the other person that you are willing to be social on their terms, not just yours. If they decline the walk, don't be pushy.

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This is meant to be polite, helpful advice given like a friend would give advice to a friend. My intent is not to judge you as "right" or "wrong" in any way, but merely to point out a perspective you may not have considered.

It is difficult for me to be this blunt, but, since you said "I find it a bit rude to leave someone just because you finished your food/drink faster. Normally when I invest the time in meeting with someone I would like to spend a couple hours with them." it suggests that you need to understand where you and your desires (and the things you control) end and where others begin.

In order for you to think something is rude you must first have an expectation that is not being met. You have an expectation for your friend to spend a certain amount of time with you, but he is not even aware of the expectation. So, you are getting offended (thinking it is rude) needlessly and needlessly getting upset.

How to ask your friend to stay a minimum time? You cannot ask that because demanding that a person honors your timetable instead of their own timetable means that what you are actually asking has nothing to do with time management, you are asking the person to submit to your will instead of theirs.

I realize that you don't actually want to control your friend in this way (I hope ;) , but if you ask them to stay a minimum time and adhere to your timetable because their leaving early is "rude", you may lose a friend because they think it is strange that you want to force them to do what you want.

You cannot force a person to do what you want.

You CAN ask in advance how much time your friend has available to spend with you and mention how much time you have to spend (or would like to spend) to make your friend aware that you'd like to spend more time with them and also give them the opportunity and CHOICE to choose to spend more time with them.

Expecting a person to spend a minimum amount of time with you and not leave you early suggests that, perhaps, your expectations are focused entirely on your needs and not your friend's.

This is meant to be friendly and, most importantly, helpful. Please accept my apologies if my wording was too direct and could have been written more softly.

If you lower your expectations of other people you will be upset about your expectations not being met less often. ;)

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